Chinese exchange students engage in a different culture

Photo by Branden Miles

Although the school day had ended, the cheerful buzz of voices still filled room 200. Two boys hunched over an iPhone playing Fruit Ninja in silent concentration. A few girls sat together, fervently discussing a math problem. Notebooks, binders and stray homework scattered the narrow tables.

This is a typical afternoon of a Chinese exchange student from Xi’an, China. The students gather in the Chinese room after school to do homework, relax and hang out.

Most of the sophomores in the Chinese Exchange (CHEX) program have been put into junior classes with some choices for electives.

“Before I came here, I thought that the students here would be very relaxed and not have much work to do,” said sophomore Selena Lu. “But after I came here, I found that the students are also very hardworking and have lots of homework. In some ways, it’s harder.”

Like Lu, most CHEX students found significant differences between the structure of their school in Xi’an and that of Brookline. According to sophomore Echo Zhao, a typical class in China has approximately 50 to 60 students.

“It’s a big class,” said Zhao. “And not every student has enough time to communicate with each other or with teachers, so if they have a problem, they have to solve it themselves.”

Sophomore Weichen Wang has found switching classes to be a new experience.

“Here, students move and the teachers sit there and wait for their students to come,” said Wang. “But in China, students don’t move and the teacher runs from one class to another,”

Not only do the CHEX students notice a contrast in school life, but in family life as well.

“American families have a habit,” said sophomore Zhaocheng Yang. “They often communicate at dinner, so everyone can show what they learned and what they experienced during the day. In China, we concentrate on eating.”

Wang said his parents in China are much stricter than his host parents.

“They’re more like friends, not parents,” Wang said of his host parents.

The CHEX students will remain in Brookline until ­­­­­­Jan. 30, and the school will send eight American students to Xi’an in February.


Olivia Shiffman can be contacted at [email protected]